Neurology PhD Program Overviews
Students looking to obtain an advanced degree in neurology might consider a doctoral degree program in neuroscience or a residency program in neurology. Doctoral degrees are pursued by master's degree holders, while residency programs are intended as the final step for doctors attending medical school.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Neuroscience
Although no Ph.D. programs in neurology exist, students can earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Neuroscience, which involves the study of the human brain from a biological, physiological and neurological standpoint. Some programs allow students to choose an area of specialization, such as synapses, cells and circuits, learning and memory, neural development, neurogentics and neuroimaging. The goal of a Ph.D. program is to prepare students for careers in neurological scientific research.
Neuroscience Ph.D. applicants are expected to hold a master's degree, often in neuroscience or a closely related area. Potential candidates provide letters of recommendation, transcripts, resumes of professional experience and scores on the Graduate Record Examination.
Programs stress clinical practice and application of theories and principles in a laboratory setting. Students often have the opportunity to gain teaching experience. In addition to completing a dissertation project, students engage in advanced coursework, laboratory rotations and seminars coving the following topics:
- Molecular neurobiology
- Neurology and genetics
Popular Career Options
Students with a Ph.D. in neuroscience often gravitate toward careers in academia or research. Some popular career options include:
- Neurological scientist
- Technical writer
Although a Ph.D. is the highest degree awarded in this particular field, students can obtain master's or doctoral degrees in other areas of science, such as biology or chemistry. Some students may apply to medical school.
Residency Program in Neurology
Neurology residency programs cover the study of neurological diseases and disorders as well as theories and principles in ambulatory, consultative and rehabilitative patient care. Students explore the fundamentals of brain function on a chemical, neurological and physical level. Programs typically last 3-4 years.
Students applying to residency programs are almost exclusively doctors with medical degrees. Obtaining a medical degree requires four years of undergraduate school and four years of medical school. Students then must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Some programs may require the completion of a 1-year medical internship.
Residencies are often organized into rotations that expose students to essential related topics, such as neuroradiology, neuropathology, neuro-oncology, pediatric neurology, inpatient service and neuromuscular disorders. During a residency, students have the opportunity to attend conferences, teach neurology to medical students and attend seminars that cover the following topics:
- Synaptic transmission
- Cell adhesion
- Nutrition and brain function
- Biochemistry of aging
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
In May 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the mean salary for physicians, including neurologists, was $184,820. The BLS projected a 24% growth in employment for physicians and surgeons in general from 2010-2020, largely due to advancing technology, retirement, career transfer and the aging baby boomer generation (www.bls.gov).
Although not absolutely essential for employment, neurologists can apply for board certification. To become certified by the American Board of Psychologists and Neurologists (ABPN), which is a part of the American Board of Medical Specialists (AMMS), doctors must pass a nationally standardized examination, as well as be evaluated in terms of professional standing, self-assessment evaluations, cognitive expertise and clinical practice performance.
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